In the historical and anthropological literature, western Alps servants were widely assumed to be few in number, and the importance of the institution of service therefore negligible. This study combines historical-demographic and ethnographic methods to investigate whether this was true of a community in the Italian western Alps with a mixed population of peasants and transhumant shepherds. Surprisingly, a valuable 1951 census reveals that seemingly small numbers hide what was actually a normal phase in the life course of peasant sons whom shepherds recruited to work as servants. Distinct patterns of life-cycle and lifetime service seem to have coexisted in the same community. The evidence also confirms that in southern Europe, as some recent studies have pointed out, the institution of service often was not just the circulation of young men and women between households but an asymmetrical exchange between different socioeconomic groups. Otherwise rigid social and cultural boundaries were thereby crossed.

Crossing the boundary : Peasants shepherds and servants in a western alpine community / P.P. Viazzo, M. Aime, S. Allovio. - In: THE HISTORY OF THE FAMILY. - ISSN 1081-602X. - 10:4(2005), pp. 387-405. [10.1016/j.hisfam.2005.09.004]

Crossing the boundary : Peasants shepherds and servants in a western alpine community

S. Allovio
Ultimo
2005

Abstract

In the historical and anthropological literature, western Alps servants were widely assumed to be few in number, and the importance of the institution of service therefore negligible. This study combines historical-demographic and ethnographic methods to investigate whether this was true of a community in the Italian western Alps with a mixed population of peasants and transhumant shepherds. Surprisingly, a valuable 1951 census reveals that seemingly small numbers hide what was actually a normal phase in the life course of peasant sons whom shepherds recruited to work as servants. Distinct patterns of life-cycle and lifetime service seem to have coexisted in the same community. The evidence also confirms that in southern Europe, as some recent studies have pointed out, the institution of service often was not just the circulation of young men and women between households but an asymmetrical exchange between different socioeconomic groups. Otherwise rigid social and cultural boundaries were thereby crossed.
Household structure; Servants; Shepherds; Transhumance; Western Alps
Settore M-DEA/01 - Discipline Demoetnoantropologiche
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/14822
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